What if I come to you and I tell you I have a terminal illness? What would it be your response? How would you treat me? What if I tell you that because of that I deal with death thoughts every day? What if I told you that I am afraid to live in this condition?
Every morning when open my eyes I know this could be my last day. This illness keeps me prostrated to bed most of my evenings and weekends. It doesn’t give me a chance to dream and hope anymore. I am usually just waking up, going to work, come back home and go to sleep. I have very few social interactions, and the way I go out to the world is through social media. Without social media I would be dead long time ago. For you is a distraction, fore me is a survival tool.
In the organizing social justice world we talk a lot about liberation, we talk about ending white supremacy, racism, ageism, and heteronormativity. We talked against gentrification, pollution, and wage theft. We resist ICE, police brutality, and family separation through deportation. We talk about the anger we have when people don’t understand about pronouns, marriage equality, cultural appropriation, or voting rights. We want to change our communities, our society and the way we live. But there is a condition and an illness that is killing us, but we have decided not to deal with it, because it means that we need to be open and vulnerable to others, and that is not the way we have been conditioned to be leaders and organizers in this society.
I constantly hear this phrase “we need to be strong for the people we are working for and with”. Do we? Why? I have been reading Audre Lorde lately and I saw this amazing quote: “Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.” It is because we do not show our true selves to others than our own demons and illnesses are killing us. To be able to know about the weaknesses, strengths and the things, that makes us down, or hopeless, that is the true path of knowledge and liberation.
Depression is consider, for many, just an emotional stage. A sign of our inability to deal with our own personal issues, and incapable to move on. It is view as nothing important, and many people think that the solution is to be happy about the life we have, be thankful because there are people in worst condition than we are. We need to wash our face, and go out for a walk. To socialize, or simply to take control of our emotions. Depression will take people to suicide. Not because they were selfish like many people will claim, but because they were not able to cope with life, and for them death seems like the best thing to do.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent. More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.”
So if this is true, how come my illness is not validated? For example as some one who was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2014, and who is not ashamed to share it to others, my week can change from an excellent time, to a deplorable stage of hopelessness without any reason. Today for example, I came to work in the morning like any other day, sat down on my desk, and suddenly this dark shadow covered me, and pushed me down. Of course I celebrate life, but at the same time I ask myself over and over what that fuck I am doing with my life? And this question is the one who continually takes me to think in the death as part of my life. (When Death Seems Better Than Life)
We need to start including self- care as part of our own liberation, and acknowledge, and validate mental illness in our social, economic, immigration, and racial justice work. Vulnerability has to be part of any social movement; we cannot pretend we are the strongest, the wisest, and the more knowledgeable organizers, and activist. We are stronger not only because we find our own strength, we are strong because we can find the weaknesses within ourselves and join with other fellow human beings so we can become stronger. Lets face it there is a dark demon in organizing.
“There is the ‘you’ that people see and then there is the ‘rest of you’. Take some time and craft a picture of the ‘rest of you’. This could be a drawing, in words, even a song. Just remember that the chances are good it will be full of paradox and contradictions” Brennan Manning (Daring Greatly)